The eyes can have it, young or old, even newborns

June 15, 2012

How can parents know if their child is developing cataracts?


Babies are tested at birth for ophthalmological diseases but there are signs to watch for in older children. 


- Children who develop cataracts show signs such as lazy eyes, squinting in even low level sunlight, sitting increasingly closer to the television, and increasing tentativeness when walking.

- In a photograph white reflection in one eye, as opposed to ‘red eye’, can be a sign of cataracts in that eye.

Cataracts are something many of us associate with aging, as inevitable as that first pair of reading glasses. But children, even newborns, can develop cataracts. Indeed, some are born with cataracts.


Cataracts are a clouding of the clear lens of your eye. People who have cataracts experience their vision as though they are seeing through cloudy lenses or a foggy window and often have sensitivities to sunlight.


Children can inherit cataracts from their parents.


“It is not unusual to see a familial line which shows the same pattern of cataracts,” says Dr. Sapna Sharan, Ophthalmologist, London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph’s Health Care London. “Cataracts can also be acquired through eye trauma or medications such as steroids.”


Each year Dr. Sharan performs cataract surgery for about 10 paediatric patients ranging from newborns to teens. Not every child requires surgery. The cataract should bea critical size, which significantly impairs vision, before operating.  Post operative visual rehabilitation can be challenging in infants and younger children and there is an increased risk of glaucoma from cataract surgery in young patients. 


It’s important, says Dr. Sharan, for children to have an eye exam each year.


Dr. Sapna Sharan


Dr. Sapna Sharan performs cataract surgery for about 10 paediatric patients a year.